Washington Area Women's Foundation

Fair Fund: Leadership Award meant far more than $15,000!

The following is an excerpt from the speech Caroline Tower-Morris gave as a representative of Fair Fund, to congratulate the newest Leadership Awardees and welcome them to The Women’s Foundation’s community.

In 2007, Fair Fund was a Leadership Award recipient, and winner of the on-line vote.  I am proud to be here this evening representing FAIR Fund, as well as honored to be able to pass the torch to the new class of award recipients, including Polaris Project, winner of the 2009 on-line vote.

I would like to take this opportunity to thank Washington Area Women’s Foundation on behalf of FAIR Fund for everything, and we look forward to a continuing fruitful partnership.

Over the past year, I discovered how truly fortunate FAIR Fund was to have received the 2007 Leadership Award and to have won the online vote. The Leadership Award and online vote meant more to us than $15,000, which, of course, was also extremely helpful.

On a deeper level, the Leadership Award helped to position FAIR Fund’s presence in the women’s and girl’s advocacy and service community.  Prior to the award, FAIR Fund had been working inside D.C. schools and youth centers to reach out to and assist teens, in particular girls, who were at high risk toward sexual violence and even commercial sexual exploitation, but this award helped us to deepen our level of commitment and service.

When my Executive Director, Andrea Powell, told me that up to 70 percent of teens in classes reported knowing another teen involved in some form of commercial sex, I was truly shocked and realized that the need to provide comprehensive community support and outreach was greater than possibly imagined.

With the support and community connectionsThe Women’s Foundation offered to FAIR Fund last year, we were able to reach out to a broader D.C. community.

For example, we were offered a chance to work with The Hatcher Group on our media strategy, resulting in multiple press coverage opportunities, including the Washington Post and Salon.com.

The Women’s Foundation believed in FAIR Fund as we sought to educate the community and build support for young women and men trapped by pimps and traffickers, who often trick their victims by pretending to be a boyfriend or friend, then demand that they have sex with others to keep that relationship, and often even just to keep their own lives.

These young women and men deserve to be heard, and The Women’s Foundation helped strengthen FAIR Fund’s voice.

Starting last year at this very Leadership Awards ceremony, FAIR Fund began to form new partnerships with other Leadership Award recipients in order to deepen our community connections to other women’s programs. We formed special relationships with agencies that are now our partners is assisting exploited and neglected girls. Together, we are addressing the myriad of challenges that small nonprofits face as colleagues.  We are also there to help facilitate outreach in new communities in D.C. and provide assistance to identified exploited girls.

This past fall, the support from The Women’s Foundation continued to strengthen FAIR Fund’s role in the D.C. women’s and girl’s advocacy community when we partnered at our first annual Youth Ally Awards and Pathways event to raise D.C. community awareness of the plight of commercially sexually exploited teens.  During that evening in November, The Women’s Foundation supported FAIR Fund as we shared findings from a two-year federally funded study of 60 teens in D.C. and Boston who have experienced commercial sexual exploitation. Many of our colleagues from The Women’s Foundations were there, as were many of our own partners in the community, including Polaris Project–a Leadership Awardee this year and winner of the online vote!

The resources the award offered to FAIR Fund over the course of the year have helped give a small organization such as ours a leg up in many areas. In this uncertain economic climate, giving to others does not, or cannot, always take precedence, and The Women’s Foundation through their award and numerous priceless resources, has insured that the plight of many women and girls in Washington, DC does not go unnoticed.

FAIR Fund plans to continue the work for which The Women’s Foundation has honored us, and we are inspired to strive for even higher goals.

FAIR Fund is proud to stand alongside The Women’s Foundation today as we recognize the 2009 Leadership Awardees and the winner of the public online vote, Polaris Project.

FAIR Fund and the Polaris Project are strong partners in building a D.C. that is safer for young women and girls. 

Recently, FAIR Fund and Polaris Project staff worked together to rescue a young woman who was a victim of human trafficking.  As our two agencies worked tirelessly through the night, it reinforced the idea that no one agency can do everything.  However, this one night and the following days of assisting this young woman proved that together we were able to help her escape her abuser and begin to access services and shelter, and finally to re-build her life.

Caroline Tower-Morris is co-founder and chair of the board of directors of Fair Fund, a 2007 Leadership Awardee of The Women’s Foundation.  This post is an excerpt of the speech she gave on April 7, 2009, at the ceremony to honor the 2009 Leadership Awardees and to welcome them to The Women’s Foundation’s community.